the schmooze


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

In Yiddish, "a gute neshome" or "guteh neshomeh" is a person with a good soul; a gentle person.

coreyOn Oct. 12, 2011, Corey Kilgannon (The New York Times) reported that Prof. Irwin Corey, the comic legend, was a panhandler.

For "zibetsn" (17) years, he has panhandled for small change from motorists emerging from the Queens-Midtown "tunel"(Tunnel) near his home. Prof. Corey is no "shnorer" - beggar or moocher. He's NOT down on his luck. In fact, he's probably the world's "raykhest" (richest) panhandler in the U. S. He lives in a $3.5 million home on East 36th Street and donates all the money he receives to a charity for children in Cuba.

Shown below is a Yiddish guide to Prof. Irwin Corey:

"brilyant" (brilliant)
Lenny Bruce once described Corey as "one of the most brilliant comedians of all time."

"depresye" (economic depression)
During the Great Depression, Corey worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps.

"dokter" (doctor)
"I went to the doctor to get a transfusion and he told me my type blood is extinct." (Corey quote)

"folg mich a gahng!" (quite a job!)
It has been said, "Trying to capture Prof. Corey's career in wide-scope is a little like trying to lasso a tornado."

"froy" (wife)
Corey was married to Fran Corey, who passed away at age 95.

"fundestvegn" (however)
Corey said, "I used to start any program with 'However.' A word my wife invented."

"geburt" (birth)
Corey, film actor, American comic, left-wing political activity, was born on July 29, 1914 in Brooklyn.

"geboyrn-tog" (birthday)
At Corey's 95th birthday, held at the Players Club, Mickey Freeman noted that Corey's pre-nuptial agreement was signed so long ago, it insured he retained possession of the cave.

"gelt" (money)
In 1993, Corey gave $40,00 to buy medicine for Cubans--vitamins, antibiotics, and asthma medicine. Page 6 (New York Post) called him "an angel of mercy."

"gevinen" (to win)
While working his way back East, Corey became a featherweight Golden Gloves boxing champion.

"komish" (funny)
At a roast for comedian/actor, Richard Belzer, Corey closed the show. In the words of Paul Shaffer, the roastmaster of the evening, he said of Corey: "You are the hottest, the hippest, the funniest. Not very many people could do it. You can do it." And Corey did it! Corey was carried off the stage in mid opus, a bit developed on the Steve Allen Show.

"komunist" (Communist)
Corey said, "When I tried to join the Communist party, they called me an anarchist." (Corey was blacklisted in the 1950s, the effects of which he says still linger to this day.)

"oremkayt" (poverty)
Poverty stricken, Corey's parents were forced to place him and his five siblings in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York. He remained there until the age of 13, when he rode the rails out to Caifornia.

"haynt bay nakht" (tonight)
Corey was a frequent guest on the "Tonight Show" hosted by Johnny Carson during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"khasene" (marriage)
"Marriage is like a bank account - You put it in, you take it out, you lose interest." (Corey quote)

"klayder" (clothing)
Corey dressed in seedy formal wear and sneakers, string tie, and bushy "hor" (hair)
sprouting in all directions.

"komedie" (comedy)
Corey appeared at the Village Vanguard doing his stand-up comedy.

"komiker" (comedian)
"I'm not a comedian. I'm an iconoclast." (quote by Prof. Corey)

"lektsye" (lecture)
In one of Corey's lectures he begins:
"There he was walking through his apple ("epl") orchard, and he sees an apple falling down from a tree, which amazed ("dershtoynt") him because until that time-- until the law of gravity was passed--all apples fell up."

"lets" (clown)
Kenneth Tynan once wrote about Corey in "The New Yorker": "Corey is a cultural clown, a parody of literacy, a travesty of all that our civilization holds dear, and one of the funniest grotesques in America. He is Chaplin's tramp with a college education."

"levaye" (funeral)
Corey screwed up the Soupy Sales [2009] funeral and had to be removed from the podium. His eulogy turned into a diatribe about health-care reform. He insisted that Soupy died prematurely because of inadequate treatment.

"meshuge" (crazy)
Corey was drafted during W. W. II, but was discharged after 6 months after (according to Corey) convincing an Army psychiatrist that he was crazy.

Jeff Lewis, who was watching President Obama's State of the Union Address, kept thinking it was like watching Professor Irwin Corey. He asked, "Do you remember him from the 1970s? He appeared on the Smothers Brothers Show, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and many others. He's the crazy professor who never made any sense."
(Source: "Promise Of America", 1/26/11)

"oylem" (audience)
Corey often used audience participation to liven up his lectures.

"oysgeputst" (dressed up)
Corey does NOT dress up when he is panhandling. He wears a white "beybsol" (baseball) "hitl" (cap) on which he has various slogans: "Bribers Rules Washington." (Note: The Yiddish word for bribe is "khabar.")

"ponem" (face)
Corey worked on another review, "New Faces of 1943."

"radyo" (radio)
Corey thrived on the radio, memorably appearing on Edgar Bergen's show as a tutor to Charlie McCarthy.

"sikhsekh" (controversy)
In the 60's Corey began to utter controversial lines over the air. He said, "Is there life after birth? And, "Yes! Nixon is a great example of afterbirth." Soon after he was blacklisted by the major "telivisye" (television) networks.

"tsemishn" (to confuse)
For the past six-plus decades, Prof. Corey --the world's foremost authority--has been confusing people.

"tseyner" (teeth)
According to Tim Manners [], "First thing Corey does when he arrives at Friars for lunch, is order 'a tube of denture cream.' But this is not entirely a joke--the waiter actually brings him the cream and the Professor installs his teeth. Irwin's son, Richard, attributes "his father's comedic style to a lack of vision in his right eye: something about making the world look flatter and two-dimensional, and making disparities clearer."

"tuckhes" (behind)
When Corey saw a sexy lady, he improvised this line: "Behind every beautiful woman there is a beautiful behind." (Note: In "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" on B'way, Valerie Harris prounced it "tukus.")

"valn" (election)
During the 1960 election, Corey campaigned for president on Hugh Hefner's Playboy ticket. His campaign slogans were things like, "Vote for Irwin and Get on the Dole" and "Corey will run for any party, with a bottle in his hand." (He didn't win!)

"vits" (joke)
Corey appeared at the Friar's Club where he joked that the "median age is...deceased."

"yatatata" (loqacious)
Prof. Corey became famous for his absurdly long introductions for other performers.

He said, "I was introducing Tom Lehrer one night and I must've gone on for 20 minutes. When he finally did come onstage, he opened his act by saying, 'And in conclusion..."

Corey pulled the same trick when introducing Don Adams. After moving to another club across town where he was supposed to do "dray" (3) shows a night, Adams actually requested that Corey introduce him--"because he only felt like doing "tsvey" (2) shows."

"zikorn" (memory)
Prof. Corey used this standard line:
"Life is memory. So if you don't do anything until you're thirteen, when you're fifty-one you got nothing to remember."

"zitsen ahf shpilkes" (sit on pins & needles)
In 1938, back in New York, Corey got a job writing and performing in "Pins and Needles," a musical "komedye" (comedy) revue about a union organizer in the garment trade in New York. He was fired for his union organizing activities.

"zun" (son)
Prof. Corey has one son, Richard, and one grandson, Amadeo.

Marjorie Wolfe says, "This just in: Abe Vigoda is still alive!"

Following an erroneous report of his death in 1982 and another in 1987, Vigoda has been the subject of various running gags about whether he is "lebedik" (alive) or dead. Vigoda has made regular appear- ances with fellow octogenarian, Betty White, in a widely seen and well-liked Superbowl ad for Snickers "tsukerl" (candy) bars.


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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